The Sailors - Andrea & Richard Black
The Sailing Pages are about the nautical side of our lives, about the boats we have owned, our voyages and where we are going.
Don't forget, you can read about our trip since we left California on the blog: http://sailingflamenco.blogspot.com The blog goes all the way back - just select the relevant month in the menu on the right side.
When Andrea and I started dating, we talked loosely about the cruising life - wandering from port to port on a sailboat and savoring life in different cultures. This had been a dream of mine for 35 years, but it was all new for her. But she is an adventurer by nature and after thinking about it for a while, she began to see the possibilities. When we were first dating, I lived on Sevillana, a cat-ketch of my own design in the harbor at Ventura, California. I took her sailing a lot and when she came to visit, she got to see how it feels to live on a sailboat.... not very much room, but a magical space nonetheless. We went out and anchored at the Channel Islands where it wasn't all that hard to imagine that we were the first humans to walk there. Although we went to live in a house for quite a few years, she could see that I really thrived on a boat (OK, I confess that I lacked a certain degree of enthusiasm when it came to fixing up old houses). So she decided that we should make this trip and see how it worked out. So here we are.
For me, it started much earlier. I can remember when I was in college meeting someone who talked about living on a boat. I had this fantasy about going to UC Berkeley and living on a boat in the marina there. The fantasy included anchoring out in San Francisco Bay for some quiet study time - how quiet was never made clear as the fantasy also included several lovely coeds along for the company.
The fantasy remained in the background until I entered Law School in Los Angeles in 1968. To support the family, I took a job working at Juvenile Hall, watching the hoodlums sleep and making sure that they didn't do anything else but sleep. I briefed law cases and studied all night long - but by dawn, I would get pretty sleepy and couldn't stay awake reading law. So I browsed the bookshelves in the unit. It turns out that someone had been bringing in sailing magazines and leaving them for the kids to read. I don't know how much they read them, but I made a regular practice of reading them from cover to cover. The fantasy came back to life.
A bit later, I actually got to meet the source of those magazines. A guy who worked in the unit during the day, Pat Ford, was the son of movie producer, John Ford. Pat lived in LA Harbor with his family aboard a classic wooden gaff schooner. Whenever I saw him, I pumped him for information about what it was like to live on a boat and in a rash moment, he invited me to visit his boat. Mistake! Within a short time, I turned up with wife and tiny kids on the dock next to Pat's boat. He was a gracious host and showed us around. I was smitten. His schooner was the definition of romance - while a very difficult layout for living aboard, the oil lamps, woodstove, and varnished wood were like something out of a movie - like Pat himself. Pat sort of stepped into the role of sailing mentor and we continued talking about boats.
After a year, I dropped out of law school, exhausted from full time work and full time school. I realized that I was never going to love the study of law enough to be anything but a hack lawyer. I missed working with juvenile delinquents and decided to return to being a probation officer. But it took time to make that transition. Since I was still working nights, I started reading books about sailing. I could read a new one every night and in the space of a year, had literally read everything in print that the big downtown Public Library could find for me...maybe 300 books! Meanwhile, Pat Ford had moved out of Juvenile Hall and was then working at a forestry camp in the mountains. The beauty of this job was that it was 3 days and 2 nights straight through and then 4 days and 5 nights off duty. Soon, I moved to the same camp where Pat was working and we continued talking about boats.
Since I was now making more money, I convinced the family that we should buy a boat - we bought Circe, a 28 foot John Hanna designed Gulfweed Ketch. We had sort of sailed in a sailing dinghy, but had mostly embarrassed ourselves in it. So on Circe, we started learning to sail on the ocean. At first, we just pointed the boat in the general direction of Catalina Island and anchored wherever we ended up. As time passed, we got a bit better at it. I began to crew on other peoples racing boats and in so doing, learned a lot more about getting a sailboat to do what I wanted.
Circe was too small to live on, but I still harbored the fantasy of living aboard full time. We were living in a rented house in San Pedro, California at the North end of LA Harbor. Eventually the family agreed to try living on a boat. We sold Circe and bought a 40 foot Owens Cutter that we renamed Hotspur after a British ancestor of mine. At this time, most sailboats were made of wood. Fiberglass had just been invented and it wasn't nearly as pretty as wood nor as romantic. Wood boats needed lots of love and attention, but I only worked 3 days a week, so I had the time and we began rebuilding Hotspur while living aboard. Life with me has always been a challenge for wife and family, but they rose to it and we became fairly good sailors. Hotspur eventually became a jewel as our restoration was completed. During all this time, I had continued racing and was now regular crew on a Cal 40, one of the new and fast fiberglass boats.
The Cal 40, while intended to be a racing boat, actually had a layout that was very conducive to living aboard as a family. It had two small quarter berths running back under the cockpit that were perfect for our two children, Nancy and Tony, giving them a little privacy and their own private space. Since I knew Cal 40s from racing on them, we decided to buy one when it came on the market in the early 1970's.
That marked the beginning of our modern era in boating. We lived on the Cal 40, Duende, as I continued racing. I got some bluewater experience in the LA to Tahiti Race in 1974 and the Hawaii Transpac in 1975. I joined our former dock neighbors in 1980 to help them move their 40 foot Rhodes Reliant from Panama to Florida. During all of this time on Duende, I was playing flamenco and studying naval architecture. That study led to a second business as a yacht designer and a series of production cat-ketches, my design specialty. There is a lot of detail about these boats on the page devoted to our earlier boats. I was very proud of this work and loved doing it, but when Kathy, my second wife, died of Cystic Fibrosis, I lost motivation and stopped designing. A new luxury tax imposed on yachts drove my builder out of business before the tax could be repealed. I never started up again, not wanting to expose myself to lawsuits. Instead, I turned my design skills to Civil Engineering until retirement came around. When I met Andrea, I knew that I had found a woman who had the kind of adventurous spirit that could make the dream of cruising into a reality. Of course, as a flamenco dancer and a woman who loved living in the woods, this wasn't high on her fantasy list. She is graciously going along with it and in the process, finding her own reasons for being here.
I came into sailing after many lifetimes in this lifetime. I've worn a few different hats in my day, the main one being adventure. That's probably what drives the plans to take a 41ft Sceptre on the ocean.
Ah yes....the ocean. As a child learning to swim, like a fish I was. Why I cut my teeth on Mom's beach back rest in Huntington Beach, CA in the 50's. You couldn't get me out of the water! I remember my Dad teaching me to body surf in Mexico. The feeling of the ocean picking me up and riding the waves for hours are some of the fondest memories with my Dad.
My first independent living away from home was at "Swami's" in Encinitas, CA. Surfing and off road trips to Baja lead me to more adventures travelling across Europe and Asia in a jeep. So I know I can live in small places! That era was filled with exotic cooking; gardening; collecting, sewing, and selling textiles;, music; dancing and daughter raising I shared with my first husband Douglas in Santa Cruz, CA over 20 years.
Richard And I met thru flamenco. He the guitarist/singer, I the dancer. Simple combo, but mix it with love of travel and the ocean and you get sailing flamenco. I've been sailing for about 12 years, more off than on. A few trips up and down the California coast, San Francisco Bay sailing, and my favorite - the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara! And now I can ad Mexico, the Panama Canal and the US East Coast to my experience.
Most of my life has been dancing, teaching and choreography. House and garden and all that. Now sailing, spanish studies and learning these new technologies seem to be my fare. I'm scared alright, be foolish not to be.
Families...yeah I have a few. I come from a big family and can rest assured they'll all be worried about me. I hope many will come join us along the way. Especially my daughter Elinore. She's graduated among tops in her class at
SFSU and is now going to Miami Ad School after travels in Korea & Thailand. As a woman, I draw a lot of who I am from the family and community. These are part of my
identity and have given me who I am. It will be interesting seeing the world as community and family ties strenghthened by distance. I await distant shores AND trips home!